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Thread: FTC and Affiliates

  1. #1
    OPM/Moderator Hectic GHC's Avatar
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    Exclamation FTC and Affiliates
    This month, Cindy started adding content to our newsletters letting affiliates know that they need to be FTC compliant with reviews. We've been very diligent with the Flirty Aprons reviews for the last 4 years but now that we have expanded to multiple client reviews including wine clubs, music boxes, gift baskets and more, we are making a big push.

    It was all in response to a Revenews post by Tricia Meyer. Are Affiliate Managers and OPMs Responsible for Disclosure?

    My terms of service will be changing soon in all my programs. Watch for those updates. It's up to us to educate the bloggers and reviewers out there to do it the right way.
    Last edited by Hectic GHC; October 15th, 2013 at 09:45 AM. Reason: changed I to Cindy because she yelled at me.
    Greg Hoffman
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  3. #2
    Affiliate Manager CreditFirm's Avatar
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    Thanks for the update. This is probably why Google has little "ad" badges before their paid links now. Sounds like this will completely reshape the industry. I just wonder what affiliates with review websites will do in order to maintain credibility. Hard to post a credible review of a product with a badge that says it's an ad right before it.

  4. #3
    OPM/Moderator Hectic GHC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CreditFirm View Post
    I just wonder what affiliates with review websites will do in order to maintain credibility. Hard to post a credible review of a product with a badge that says it's an ad right before it.
    They just need to be honest.
    Greg Hoffman
    Affiliate Marketing Advocate of the Year 2016; Best OPM/Agency - 2014; Best OPM/Agency, Five Years in a Row - ABestWeb.
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  6. #4
    Affiliate Manager CreditFirm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by akagorilla View Post
    They just need to be honest.
    Agreed, but the conversion rates will probably take a tumble.

  7. #5
    OPM/Moderator Hectic GHC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CreditFirm View Post
    Agreed, but the conversion rates will probably take a tumble.
    Maybe that's a good thing.
    Greg Hoffman
    Affiliate Marketing Advocate of the Year 2016; Best OPM/Agency - 2014; Best OPM/Agency, Five Years in a Row - ABestWeb.
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  9. #6
    Member gibson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by akagorilla View Post
    They just need to be honest.

    great. since I am honest, my websites will not need disclaimers.
    The internet is a fad.

  10. #7
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gibson View Post
    great. since I am honest, my websites will not need disclaimers.
    You need honest disclaimers
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  11. #8
    Affiliate Manager CreditFirm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhia7 View Post
    You need honest disclaimers
    And they cannot be hidden away in small type in your footer.

  12. #9
    Certified Affiliate Manager sunshiner's Avatar
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    The disclaimer needs to be posted right above the review. This applies to any review even if the affiliate did not receive the item for free. When they endorse any product, the disclaimer needs to be posted if there is potential for making a sale through the endorsement.
    Cindy Ballard, VP of Operations, Greg Hoffman Consulting
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  13. #10
    Affiliate Manager CreditFirm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshiner View Post
    The disclaimer needs to be posted right above the review. This applies to any review even if the affiliate did not receive the item for free. When they endorse any product, the disclaimer needs to be posted if there is potential for making a sale through the endorsement.
    This maybe taking it a little too far.

  14. #11
    Certified Affiliate Manager sunshiner's Avatar
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    I'm just the messenger. FTC makes the rules not me, however, since its my merchants that are at risk I have to enforce their rules.
    This really isn't about affiliates receiving free items, its about the affiliates making money off their reviews. Naturally, whether its free or not, if you want that product to sell, you are going to give a good endorsement (in the eyes of the FTC).
    Cindy Ballard, VP of Operations, Greg Hoffman Consulting
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  16. #12
    ABW Ambassador SunshineTricia's Avatar
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    Here's a thread from over 2 years ago when this talk really got started as a result of the Legacy Learning Systems settlement. It's interesting that after all this time affiliates still seem surprised about these requirements.

    http://www.abestweb.com/forums/midni...es-143075.html
    --Tricia Meyer-- I love being the exception to the rule.

    Tricia Meyer | Helping Moms Connect | Wine Club Reviews and Ratings | Hunger Games Fan

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  18. #13
    Affiliate Manager CreditFirm's Avatar
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    I know that I'm still beating a dead horse, but how can a merchant (with 1,000 affiliates, that may own 5,000 websites, and have 40,000 links pointing back to the merchant's website), police every single affiliate, website, and link?
    They can't!

    The issue is that the FTC can't touch affiliates that are based outside of the US, so they go after the merchants, the only ones who can truly police those affiliates.

    Another half-assed solution from the government.

  19. #14
    OPM/Moderator Hectic GHC's Avatar
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    You do what you can to show due diligence or you end up in the pokey and broke.
    Greg Hoffman
    Affiliate Marketing Advocate of the Year 2016; Best OPM/Agency - 2014; Best OPM/Agency, Five Years in a Row - ABestWeb.
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  20. #15
    Certified Affiliate Manager sunshiner's Avatar
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    But Data Feed sites and coupon sites, ones that don't have content endorsing the merchants products would be exempt, so that should cut down on a lot of the affiliate sites.
    Cindy Ballard, VP of Operations, Greg Hoffman Consulting
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  22. #16
    ABW Ambassador SunshineTricia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CreditFirm View Post
    I know that I'm still beating a dead horse, but how can a merchant (with 1,000 affiliates, that may own 5,000 websites, and have 40,000 links pointing back to the merchant's website), police every single affiliate, website, and link?
    They can't!

    The issue is that the FTC can't touch affiliates that are based outside of the US, so they go after the merchants, the only ones who can truly police those affiliates.

    Another half-assed solution from the government.
    They actually can try to go after affiliates outside of the U.S.:
    http://www.ftc.gov/reports/ussafeweb...0WEB%20Act.pdf

    I would venture to say that merchants with 1000 affiliates do not have 1000 affiliates making up the bulk of the sales. The FTC wants the affiliates sending the majority of the sales to be policed more closely and all the rest just spot-checked. At least according to the Legacy Learning Systems settlement.
    --Tricia Meyer-- I love being the exception to the rule.

    Tricia Meyer | Helping Moms Connect | Wine Club Reviews and Ratings | Hunger Games Fan

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  24. #17
    ABW Ambassador JoyUnltd's Avatar
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    What if you do blog posts that have suggestions/ideas to use a product(s)? And links in the post point to product (datafeed) pages.

    This is getting way too complicated! :-(
    Renée
    Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain. -Wizardress of Oz

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  26. #18
    ABW Ambassador SunshineTricia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoyUnltd View Post
    What if you do blog posts that have suggestions/ideas to use a product(s)? And links in the post point to product (datafeed) pages.

    This is getting way too complicated! :-(
    Unfortunately, they do not set out every single different situation. It's all up to legal interpretation. In fact, the guidelines are not even the law. They are just guidelines to help us understand how the FTC interprets the law so that we all don't have to go out and hire lawyers.

    This is the actual Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. §45(a))

    "Section 5 prohibits entities from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices in interstate commerce. It states, in pertinent part: (1) Unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, are hereby declared unlawful..."

    You then have to combine the applicable cases decided under the law (like Legacy Learning) with the .com disclosure guidelines that have been put out and decide for yourself what it worth engaging in and what isn't. As with most laws, reasonable minds will differ on the interpretation.
    --Tricia Meyer-- I love being the exception to the rule.

    Tricia Meyer | Helping Moms Connect | Wine Club Reviews and Ratings | Hunger Games Fan

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  28. #19
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshiner View Post
    The disclaimer needs to be posted right above the review.
    I'd like to see the exact official passage stating the rule that a disclaimer must precede a review or be placed on top of a review.

    I went to ftc.gov but the page said, "Unfortunately, the Federal Trade Commission is closed due to the government shutdown."

    I did find an interesting Powerpoint presentation that I find helpful; it's about the "FTC's Clear and Conspicuous Standard" with online advertising examples.
    I did not see anything that said a disclaimer must be on top of a review, but it must be clearly seen.
    The 4 Ps are:
    • Prominence
    • Presentation
    • Placement
    • Proximity

    You can read the presentation with links for more guidance: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshops/neg...tions/Fair.pdf

    I also read this: FTC POLICY STATEMENT ON DECEPTION
    Appended to Cliffdale Associates, Inc., 103 F.T.C. 110, 174 (1984)
    FTC POLICY STATEMENT ON DECEPTION
    I did not find directions in the text saying that the disclaimer must precede the review or be placed on top of the review.

    Btw, Chuck once said he would make my related post a sticky but did not do so. I think this merits a sticky because it helps to clarify these matters:
    http://www.abestweb.com/forums/newbi...re-168382.html
    Last edited by Rhia7; October 16th, 2013 at 02:26 PM.
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  30. #20
    ABW Ambassador SunshineTricia's Avatar
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    Here's the exact language from the new Guidelines:

    The clear and conspicuous analysis does not focus only on the disclosure itself. It also
    is important to consider the entire ad. Elements like graphics, sound, text, links that lead to other screens or sites, or “add to cart” buttons may result in consumers not noticing, reading, or listening to the disclosure.

    And the example that they give of a blog post review:

    Example 21
    The blogger in this example obtained the paint she is reviewing for free and must disclose that fact. Although she does so at the end of her blog post, there are several hyperlinks before that disclosure that could distract readers and cause them to click away before they get to the end of the post. Given these distractions, the disclosure likely is not clear and conspicuous.

    http://www.ftc.gov/os/2013/03/130312...isclosures.pdf
    --Tricia Meyer-- I love being the exception to the rule.

    Tricia Meyer | Helping Moms Connect | Wine Club Reviews and Ratings | Hunger Games Fan


  31. #21
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    It does get a little confusing.. as a content affiliate who uses datafeeds, I don't consider my wording a "review" - it's a recommendation, with a specific idea for usage. Sounds like JoyUnltd and I are on the same page here.

    For example, a seafood dinner for 4 - I'm not stating it's the best seafood ever and will improve your health, but I am suggesting it's a convenient and tasty idea for a dinner party (if you like seafood), and can be served up with etc etc..

    (disclaimer: I have a disclaimer link displayed on my site but not embedded in every post)

    - just read Tricia's post - I don't receive any seafood dinners as compensation for the above recommendation. It would be a different story if I did.. would definitely mention that IN the content piece. And on that topic, I am open to seafood dinners..

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  33. #22
    OPM/Moderator Hectic GHC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by teezone View Post
    And on that topic, I am open to seafood dinners..
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    Greg Hoffman
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  35. #23
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    This FTC guideline is very confusing indeed.

    I'm with JoyUnltd and Teezone on this one. I don't do any "reviews", however, the products on my sites are the ones I would like to introduce/recommend to my site visitors. Will my wording of a certain product be categorized as "review"? I don't think so, but what does the FTC thinks?

    I do display a general disclaimer link on all my sites disclaiming that I receive commission on products sold. I thought that will be enough. Now you guys make me all confused again...

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  37. #24
    ABW Ambassador SunshineTricia's Avatar
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    The Guidelines are not limited to reviews, but rather talk about "endorsements," which could be done without actually reviewing the product. The deceptive advertising settlement with COPEAC (a CPA network) defined endorsement as “any advertising message…that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser.”

    That case was pretty egregious because it involved advertisements made to look like news sites. But I think the definitions it used would be relied on by future FTC actions.

    So the question is...when you are advertising for a merchant, are you advertising in a way that would be considered an "opinion, belief, finding, or experience" of your own that goes beyond a factual claim? I would think a datafeed driven site with no opinions about anything would not be an endorsement. Same with coupons. It's when you start to endorse a particular product or merchant over others that the rules kick in.
    --Tricia Meyer-- I love being the exception to the rule.

    Tricia Meyer | Helping Moms Connect | Wine Club Reviews and Ratings | Hunger Games Fan

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  39. #25
    ABW Ambassador JoyUnltd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by helpingmoms View Post
    So the question is...when you are advertising for a merchant, are you advertising in a way that would be considered an "opinion, belief, finding, or experience" of your own that goes beyond a factual claim? I would think a datafeed driven site with no opinions about anything would not be an endorsement. Same with coupons. It's when you start to endorse a particular product or merchant over others that the rules kick in.
    It's one helluva rocky road.
    Renée
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